The word “healing” in our culture has two different meanings depending on who is talking.
There is one kind of healing that is false-healing which does not involve much pain. The main goal of most therapists, spiritual teachers and life-coaches (even if they have good intentions) is to get you to trick your mind into more advanced stages of suppression, repression, denial, detachment and dissociation. Many people are helped dramatically with this. They think they are healed because they feel so much better, but in reality, they are living in a more advanced state of pain-suppression. Pain-suppression, like any anesthetic or distraction, is a great place to be, but it is a temporary band-aid. Like modern medicine, no matter what medicine you take, generally you might feel some relief from physical symptoms. Well, working with the mind (cognitive and spiritual bypass) for trauma survivors works the same way. With false healing, one can commit to this process alone so it’s very convenient. Some people don’t have the support or they live in too stressful an environment for true healing to be possible, so working with the mind and/or medication are the only opportunity to feel some relief so that one can survive or function in society.
The other kind of healing is true healing. It’s not about survival but thriving. It’s not about suppression, but expression. It’s not about denial, but facing the past. It’s not about working with the mind as much as it’s about working with the body (discharging the freeze response) and the emotions (the heart). So many think that trauma breaks the mind, but I intuit that trauma reprograms the cells in the body which alter the mind or the nervous system. The original wounding is IN the body’s cells and deep in the tissues which affect everything else. Our cells program us what to do unless we do the real work of healing.
True healing is about doing the grueling blood, sweat and tears — nose-to-the-grindstone work of trauma recovery that involves an involuntary uninterrupted process of cathartic release of pent-up expression both within the body (discharging the freeze response) and the emotions (from the heart). Having an “enlightened witness” as Alice Miller would suggest or a process partner there during key parts of the recovery process make it so much easier since being seen and heard in our pain in a non-judgmental atmosphere is a huge underappreciated part of the healing process.
Unlike false healing, one can not commit to true healing in solitude because it goes beyond basic shallow crying to the untraversed depths we have avoided our whole lives. We got wounded in relation to others, so the deepest part of healing might take place in a therapeutic intimate relational environment. We automatically relive what the inner-child’s defenses blocked out to survive so support is needed.
What so many of us don’t realize is that healing is an automatic process, but the reason so many of us continue to suffer might be due to the fact that we get in the way of this natural built-in process. Through our social conditioning, through our learned defenses or because we live in an unsupportive toxic environment, we deny this process. A fear of true healing can also exist if all we know is chaos and strife. To live on the other side of pain is the most frightening thing because it teaches us that what happened to us as kids was wrong (more than just cognitively) and forces us to face the truth of our parents or abusers and the unbearable heart-wrenching impact it had on us from the child’s perspective. False healing works with the intellectual adult mind, whereas true healing works with where the original wounding exists in the child’s heart. It is hard to face the truth and false-healing is a blessing for those who just cannot handle it. And there is absolutely noting wrong with that since we all come here with different goals and true healing may not be one of them.
Unlike false healing, true healing takes one from a place of disempowerment to a place of authentic empowerment. All facets of self are integrated and a person becomes whole and feels whole. Digestion might improve and the body might work better. Physical illness might even cease since we aren’t holding on to memories and emotions anymore. We have no idea just how much of our body’s system resources are used to keep memories and emotions from conscious awareness. We do not appreciate how taxing repression, suppression and denial is on the body. When we have unresolved wounds, our bodies don’t get a break.. In my opinion, unresolved trauma is a major source of aging, illness and death. With true healing, symptoms of childhood trauma are not temporarily suppressed, rather they disappear permanently. Since it’s not a band-aid, the effects of true healing are permanent. While it can take a lifetime, when we become truly healed, we are able to handle stress and environmental triggers with ease. The way we see the world and others will change dramatically with true healing. We become aligned with who we really are. Life becomes truly amazing.
If anyone tells you they are healed, don’t automatically believe them. They may not be liars either. With good intentions, they just may have bought the pop-culture illusory belief of healing when they are really in a more advanced stage of pain-suppression. Know the difference between pain-suppression and actual healing. The difference is widely and grossly unacknowledged.